I was feeling very nostalgic a few nights ago and was remembering my semester abroad in Florence, Italy. For anyone who has visited Florence, you have likely dined at the famous Acqua al Due restaurant for the incredible pasta sampler or the amazing blueberry steak aka. Filetto al Mirtillo. My memories were so strong, I felt compelled to recreate it!
Why have you done a good thing?
Blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses that fight heart disease and cancers. Perfect for breakfast or sweet enough for a dessert, blueberries also have a megadose of vitamin C and fiber. Although best in the summer time, we can thankfully enjoy these delectable berries all year round thanks to frozen berries!
But what about what goes under the sauce?
Despite research from the 80s and 90s giving beef a bad wrap, beef is a fantastic source of iron, protein, and vitamin B12, all of which are particularly important for growing children, pregnant/breastfeeding mothers, and menstruating women. As it can be high in saturated fat (which can lead to high cholesterol) and calories, it is important to pick the right cut, preparation, and portion size. Recommendation from the American Heart Association include:
1) Choose cuts of meat that have the least amount of visible fat and trim this visible fat off of meats. Buy "choice " or " select " grades of beef rather than "prime." Choose from the following lean cuts of meat:
Filet Mignon, Top loin steak, Porterhouse steak, T-bone steak, Flank Steak, 95% lean ground beef, Top sirloin steak, Chuck arm pot roast, Tenderloin, Wedge bone sirloin steak, Eye round, Top round, Bottom round roast, Round tip roast, Shank cross cuts
2) Prepare meats using broiling, grilling, baking, roasting, and braising methods.
3) Keep to a serving size of beef about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hands. Make the rest of your plate ½ full of non-starchy veggies and ¼ plate a low-fat starch.
How often should you eat red meat?
Based on research that indicates that frequent intake of beef has been shown to be associated with obesity, heart disease, and cancers, I would say beef should not be an everyday meal. However it is important to understand that this research is thought to mainly be related to displacement of leaner vegetarian sources of protein. So, I recommend to patients to make red meat a special food, limiting intake to 1 time per week (choosing the best quality meat), eating fish and vegetable sources of protein as much as possible.
Blueberry Steak (Serves 4)
1 lb Flank Steak
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bag of frozen blueberries or 2 cups of fresh blueberries
½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp flour or cornstarch
In a small saucepan, combine berries, vinegar, honey, ketchup, flour (if using cornstarch add your slurry), and pinch of salt and pepper. Heat on low until reduces and thickens (about 30 minutes).
Set oven to high broil. Rub steak on both side with a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cook on each side for 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness and how well done you like your steak; 4 minutes for medium). Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Slice and pour sauce over steak and serve.
So have a dinner party and enjoy this delicious meal the Italian way; start with a small serving (1 cup cooked) of fresh pasta followed by a few slices of this steak with a generous serving of veggies on the side. PS. It goes great with a small glass of Chianti…
--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN